Paris: 1819, 1823, 1827
"The sanctuary of national industry"
Wartime events between 1806 and 1819 – the epochal battles of Eckmül, Wagram, and Waterloo – kept Parisians occupied with matters more pressing than the hosting of another national exposition. But after Napoleon's fall and exile, the restored monarchy came to recognize the value of these revolutionary events. The city of Caen was planning an industrial exposition for April and May of 1819. Paris, if she was not to see herself passed by the provinces, had to keep up. And so on January 13, Elie Decazes, Minister of the Interior, presented to Louis XVIII plan for the fifth national exposition, to take place in the Louvre over the course of some thirty-six days.
Decazes sent out circulars to the prefects of all districts in France, stipulating in general terms what kind of products would be acceptable for the exposition. He indicated that the jury would be searching for products of unusually high quality, or products that were cheap and generally available for use. (1) The government of the restored monarchy also assisted the progress of the exposition by offering to pay all the transportation charges entailed by exhibitors in bringing their works to Paris.
A nineteen-member jury, headed by the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, was chosen in May. The vice-presidency, and the task of reporting on the proceedings of the exposition, fell to Fernand Chaptal. Chaptal had been Minister of the Interior in 1801, and the man responsible for the planning and reporting of the second and third national expositions. Louis XVIII was willing to overlook past political associations of able men if they were willing to devote their energies to his regime. The presidency of the exposition, to be sure, went to a certified aristocrat of the blood. But Chaptal would be the real moving force behind the exposition of 1819.
The organizing committee took a number of cues from the last Napoleonic exposition. Explicitly following the example set by the 1806 affair, the jury made five degrees of distinction for prizewinners: gold, silver, and bronze medals, honorable mention, and simple citation. The categories of products, though somewhat different, were basically the same as in 1806. As with the earlier exposition, there were even two special categories for products exhibited by poorhouses and products exhibited by "houses of detention and correction."
In one area, at least, French textiles achieved a decided advantage over their predecessors. In 1806, weavers were doing their best to imitate cashmere fabrics. The products were so novel to the French that they imprinted them with Chinese designs, on the assumption that the Vale of Cashmere formed part of the Chinese empire. By 1819, the French had acquired specimens of the renowned Cashmere goat, and were proceeding with the production of the much-desired shawls and scarves made from the processed product.
But the French manufacturers soon learned that there were other factors involved in successful marketing than mere possession of exotic raw materials. Goods imported from India were significantly cheaper than French-made cashmere fabrics. The report of the exposition jury noted that, although the Indian labor process was extremely slow, "handwork in France is much more expensive than it is in India."(2) In addition, cashmere was more difficult to work than traditional wool. However, the jury noted, mechanical techniques were being applied successfully to the fabrication of cashmeres, and there was every reason to hope that the application of technology to exotic cashmere would make French products competitive.
The lesson of cashmere would set the tone for much of French – and indeed, European – attitudes towards the commerce of fashion. It was only in the time of Napoleon that cashmeres had become fashionable. Once a taste for the new fabric had become all the rage, importers could profit from the novelty, but only by ordering from English importers – thereby enriching the commerce of France's rivals. Importing the goats themselves at first seemed to solve the problem; but the cheapness of Indian labor meant that French products were still not competitive.(3) Only with the mechanization of the weaving process could France hope to profit from the new trends in clothing. Exoticism, novelty, and technology – these three factors would set the theme of many French expositions in the future, and would go a long way to defining French taste throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
One major innovation in fabrics at the 1819 exposition was the display of perfect and permanent white silk, called Chinese White, or soie sina. For years, the French silk industry had attempted to turn yellow silk into pure white by a number of methods. All had failed. The bleached silk looked sickly, and the yellow color always returned. With the achievement a permanent white tint for silks, the French once again had freed themselves from the necessity of foreign importation, and gave the people yet another proof that France was leading the world in all aspects of the manufacture and refinement of textiles. Also on exhibit were specimens by Raymond Lyon, who had at long last devised a method for fixing Prussian blue in the dying of silk. Clearly, France was achieving a fuller command over the coloration of this eminently beautiful and marketable gift of Chinese civilization.
Though fabrics still held the first place in the esteem and interest of the jury for the 1819 exposition, some 21 departments of France sent in samples of their steel production – a hopeful sign for a nation beginning to realize the value of this metal in peace and war. In all, some 1662 industrialists and manufacturers sent examples of their work to Paris. New machines for the carding and refining of wool were proudly displayed as proof of what the French hoped was their growing superiority over England in the textile industry. At the final ceremonies, Joseph Marie Jacquard was awarded a medal of the Legion of Honor – quite an improvement over the bronze medal grudgingly awarded him 18 years earlier.
One of the most distinctively novel outcomes of the 1819 exposition was the appearance of descriptive and analytical works that appeared in print several years after the close of the event. For the 1798, 1801, 1802, and 1806 expositions, catalogues and jury reports were prepared during the same year as the event itself, and served as official accounts of the exhibits, the composition of the juries, and the awards given. The reports all contain some measure of social rhetoric, of course. But in the main, they stay with their stated task of listing and reporting.
Of the six works published on the 1819 exposition, one was published (in four volumes) in 1820-21, another in 1821, another in 1824. In some, the descriptions of the exhibits are far fuller than could be rendered in an account meant for quick publication at the end of the exposition. And, in the case of Etienne de Jouy's Etat actuel de l'industrie française, ou coup d'oeil sur l'exposition de ses produits dans les salles du Louvre, en 1819 , the catalogue served in large part as a platform from which the author could speak his mind on a number of matters related to the state of industry in France.
To begin with, the Jouy volume is far more conscious of the history of industry than any book of its kind in France. In the book's Discours préliminaire, he sketches an account of the progress and failures of industry from the Babylonians down to his own era. The short history is not without its errors of fact and omission – no mention is made of industry in Egypt, China, India or the Americas – and indeed hastens through history "in order to arrive at the rival industry of the two great modern nations, France and England."(4) But Jouy does manage to use his text as a battering ram against the old aristocracy. It was "the tyranny of an ignorant, ambitious aristocracy, even worse than its Russian counterpart, that kept industry from flourishing in Poland."(5) And again: "France, the fatherland of noble spirits, fecund soil of every species of glory," was nevertheless thwarted by "the stupid pride of the aristocracy."(6) And finally, he praises France's old rivals: "It is her political liberty that has enabled England to achieve her commercial and industrial power."(7)
Jouy goes on to trace the rise of French industry from the time of Charlemagne – to whom he attributes the innovation of standardizing weights and measures – down to the nineteenth century. He pauses along the way, however to condemn Louis XIV for encouraging industry to feed "the superfluities of luxury rather than the necessities of the people."(8) Louis's successors only made matters worse, says Jouy, with their bungling attempts to regulate industry. "The shameful chains with which the government had shackled industry kept it from taking flight,"(9) Jouy rages, and goes on to cite examples in which Frenchmen invented a product or a process only to see the wily English snatch it away and later bring it to market. It is no surprise, then, when he concludes that "Liberty is the primary necessity of commerce."(10)
Before launching into a detailed description of the exhibits themselves, Jouy permits himself two more rhetorical flights. In the first chapter he "quotes" an English journalist who has visited the 1819 exposition:
Imagine 28 rooms in the most magnificent palace in Europe, full of everything that can satisfy human needs, of everything that can perfect taste and luxury, of everything that genius can create, of everything that talent can bring into being. This is a true triumph for France, a more glorious triumph than anything she has achieved before. In this country, all arts have taken a giant step towards perfection... How can I give you an exact idea of this immense bazaar, in the midst of this crowd of objects that vie for my attention? etc. etc. etc.(11)
The passage is so passionate in its praise of France that we must strongly suspect that Jouy fabricated the quotation for his own purposes. "If even the English are impressed, my fellow French citizens, we have triumphed indeed!" he seems to be saying. Having lost to the English in the war, here is a chance for the French to match or beat the English at their own game: industrial progress.
For Jouy, as for his (perhaps mythical) English journalist, one of the cardinal points to be stressed is the location of the exposition. The Louvre was highly regarded throughout Europe as an architectural masterpiece. More importantly, it was perceived as one of the residences of the King of France and the home of one of the greatest repositories of art in the world. Jouy recognizes that this association of industry with royalty and art presages a new rise in status for the once-despised practitioner of the mechanical arts, fulfilling the dream begun by Minister Neufchâteau in 1798 when he housed the winning exhibits in a Temple of Industry. Jouy concludes his panegyric of the exposition in glowing terms:
Yes, it must be a distressing spectacle to hearts jealous of French glory to see this national palace, this Capitol of France, this Louvre, so elegant, so ornate, to serious, so magnificent in its details and simple in the ensemble, perhaps the marvel of modern architecture, to see this building become the sanctuary of national industry and the depot of this host of marvels produced by a great people in the midst of so many public troubles.(12)
"Le sanctuaire de l'industrie nationale" – here again we find the canonization of industry, endowing industrial progress with the same kind of sacred mission previously reserved for religion alone. The Louvre becomes a temple, and its architectural glory lends a radiance to the "host of marvels" within its courtyard.
But it is a borrowed glory. Industry might attempt to wear the mantle of royalty or art by occupying the building associated with both. The painters and sculptors, for their part, still refused to hold their annual salon in conjunction with the exposition. And the great architecture and art of the Louvre only served to surround the silk bonnets and fire engine pumps with lofty reminders that its is still the traditional arts that hold the first rank. After the 36 days were over, the exposition would be dismantled and its products sent back to the exhibitors' shops. The great collections of sculptures and paintings would remain long after the upstart industrialists had departed with their prizes and purchase orders.
In spite of the self-congratulatory notices appended to all the official reports of the exposition, at least one voice was raised – anonymously – that questioned the management and the supposed glorious effects of the exposition. Shortly after the close of the exposition, one "Comte de C***" published Some Reflections on Industry in General, upon the occasion of the Exposition of the Products of French Industry in 1819. In spite of the overall tone of unrelenting patriotism and support for national industry, the Count raised a good many doubts about the efficacy of the 1819 exposition.
"It is possible," writes the Count de C***, that "the result [of the exposition] is contrary to its principles, and that it has succeeded more in raising jealousy than a spirit of emulation."(13) Furthermore, because of the brevity of time between the announcement of the exposition and its opening date, many exhibitors simply could not participate, thereby misrepresenting to the public the full scope and richness of French industry. Moreover, the exposition itself was poorly arranged, serviceable "neither for the objects exhibited nor for the circulation of the crowd,"(14) nor was the manner of display suitable either, "for classification, convenience, method or taste. It was a veritable chaos."(15)
Above all, the Count was offended by the actual sale of items displayed. "In the future," he counseled, "we demand that all sales be prohibited, so that the exposition does not take on the aspect of a bazaar."(16) The Count was aware that, so long as the exhibitors showed their works for the sake of national prestige and personal pride, they were maintaining a spirit proper to a "sanctuary of industry." But the explicit sale of objects vitiated this sense by reducing the exposition to the level of a marketplace.
He goes on to criticize virtually every aspect of the exposition. In his closing remarks, he offers his own classification system: all products of industry should be arranged according to three categories: "de commodité, de magnificence, et de frivolité." In retrospect, this system seems woefully inadequate – and in fact, potentially more chaotic than the 39 categories actually used. But on one respect, the Count anticipates an idea put forth several times at later universal exposition: the classification of products, not by their substance or material make-up, but by their social context.
* * *
The king was pleased with the results of the exposition. 886 medals had been awarded, and he could justly say that France had recovered from the ravages of revolution and foreign war, and was once again on the way to becoming a commercial power in Europe. Louis XVIII issued an ordinance calling for a second exposition in 1821. But he found, as would many emperors, kings and presidents, that world events had a way of interfering with even the most laudable intentions. It would not be until 1823 that the restored monarchy would hold another national exposition.
In January of 1823, the Minister of the Interior, acting on orders from Louis XVIII, announced that an exposition would be held in the Louvre from August 25 (Saint Louis’s Day) until October 15. The event was in every way a repetition of the 1819 event. The Minister of the Interior, in fact, simply copied verbatim the instructions from the 1819 and sent them, along with King Louis’s ordinance, to all departments of France.(17)
The exposition, like that of its predecessor, was held on the ground floor of the Louvre. The writers of the official report refer to the refurbished section of the Louvre where the exposition was held as "a magnificent theatre for this wonderful manufacturing festival [cette belle fête manufacturière]."(18) The phrase indicates a state of mind clearly less spiritual than the mood of some of the earlier expositions. In 1798, the winning works were placed in a "Temple of Industry." In 1819, the expositions were "a sanctuary of industry." But now, they are envisioned as theater and festival. Such a change, or ambiguity, in attitude will continue all the way down to 1937. Seriousness mixes with frivolity, selfless devotion to Progress with self-serving promotion of personal or national welfare, education with entertainment – such were the multiple motives of the French expositions.
Though the industrial arts received most of the attention at these expositions, traditional works for the luxury buyers also found place at the 1823 exposition, as exemplified by this pair of vases:
The official reports seemingly reveal nothing startlingly new in the development of French industry. Fabrics still hold first place in the concern of the organizers, and all new procedures for producing, dyeing, weaving and marketing cloth and silk are extravagantly praised and amply rewarded by the exposition jury. But the careful reader can discern the emergence of two trends in 1823: a modest but definite turn away from fabric and toward metal in the official reports connected with the exposition; and the recognition of the fruitful alliance between isolated individual talents and the market-wise talents of the capitalist entrepreneur.
Even in the years between 1819 and 1823, reports the author of one report, metallurgy is "one branch of French industry that has made incontestable progress" – progress brought about by a "happy combination of individual luminaries and capital."(19) This sentiment is echoed in the major official catalogue edited by Hericart de Thury and Pierre-Henri Migneron. They note with pride that "we have seen new branches of metallurgy born and develop as if by enchantment."(20) New methods of extraction and refinement of iron led the way, and the applications of these new processes and the resulting increase in metal had their effect everywhere in French society. One of the most welcome, from the standpoint of Thury and Migneron, was the liberation of France from England and Germany in the production of agricultural implements.
There was at least one display well calculated to excite admiration from even the most casual visitor to the exposition. There, in the courtyard of the Louvre, one could see a large model of the first French suspension bridge, by Mssrs. Séguin, intended to cross the Rhone between Tain and Tournon. Here is the first appearance of the French genius for bridge building that would culminate, half a century later, in the technical and aesthetic triumphs of Gustave Eiffel.
The Thury and Migneron report also stresses the alignment of capital and invention – but with a slightly different twist. They praise the clever "artiste" for the introduction of precision instruments for measuring the course of time and the movement of the stars. But they place in a separate category their praise for "the frequent association between our artisans and our capitalists."(21) In this view of French society, talented inventors work alone, then supply the fruits of their labor to the capitalist, who in turn employs artisans to turn out the finished product. The next step in industrial development – the incorporation of talented "artistes" into corporate society, and the scouring of universities to secure such talent -- would not emerge until later in the century.
"The peace of the world and the happiness of France"(22) – these are the words with which the authors of the official report close their fulsome introduction. They also link the success of the exposition to the re-establishement of the throne of France – but only in passing. What is clear is that the tradition of the industrial exposition continues, and that France can only profit from its benefits.
"To supercede English production"
The national exposition of 1827 opened under the twin clouds of economic insecurity and social friction between king and subjects. Charles X, destined to be last of his line to ascend the throne of France, held some very old-fashioned ideas about royal power and prerogative – ideas that would ultimately lead to his overthrow. In France at large – indeed, throughout all Europe – the economy was struggling through a painful spasm of isolationism. Every nation tried its best to avoid purchasing products abroad, and to encourage home production and consumption. The net result, in France as elsewhere, was that insufficient local demand, coupled with restrictive trade barriers abroad, led to a surplus of unsold goods and a financial crisis of the first magnitude. As one contemporary observer wrote: "Everyone wants to sell, and no one wants to buy."(23)
There is no indication of such troubles in the official reports of the exposition. "Confident in the wisdom of her king," write Hericart de Thury and Migneron in their official report, "happy and strong by reason of the institutions which he cherishes..."(24) The fulsome praise goes on, and stops only to recount the full triumphs of French industry at this seventh national exposition. The figures seem to bear out their optimism. Over 600,000 people came to see the products of French industry.(25) Of the 1,693 exhibitors, some 1,254 won prizes, and spanned the usual array of products, from heavy machinery to a carpet made entirely of 4,000 Ostrich feathers.
But if we read only the official report, we miss the discontent that seethed in France at this time. In an independent history of the exposition, Adolphe-Jérome Blanqui prefaces his remarks by railing at the meddling, taxing incompetence of French bureaucrats who, in his eyes, were strangling French industry. Addressing his report to "French industrialists," Blanqui apostrophizes them thus:
You cannot ignore the gigantic taxes that weigh so heavily on France, and which rise frighteningly every day. You pay to be born, you pay to live and you pay to die, you pay to move, you pay to put doors and windows in your houses, to put bread in your pantry and wine in your cellars; you pay for the privilege of sending your children to expensive colleges... in fact, if the air that we breathe could be sold by weight, there would be a directeur général charged with measuring it by weight, a budget of 50,000 francs salary, not counting business expenses.26
Blanqui goes on to point out that even the protectionist laws of France are ineffective at keeping out foreign goods that compete directly with French manufactures. Assiduous at collecting local taxes, the government, he asserts, has proven incapable of regulating trade for the benefit of French nationals.
In spite of these governmental restrictions, French industry continued to gain in stature. The power of steam began to exert its influence on virtually every branch of enterprise, primarily by raising the volume of production and lowering the unit price of goods produced. The production of Merino wool, for example, scarcely existed outside Spain before 1800. By 1827, France was exporting some 15,000,000 francs worth to her markets. Silk production and processing, once confined to the south of France, now began to be cultivated successfully in the central departments, and even sporadically in the north. New amalgamations of wool and silk were on display at the exposition, and were much admired by visitors and judges alike. Steam-powered paper manufacturing appeared, and allowed French factories to produce long rolls of paper for a variety of uses – most notably, for use as wallpaper, which, according to one envious English commentator, "enabled the superior taste displayed by the French, to rival and ultimately to supersede the English production in this art."27
In some areas, the old and the new found a profitable alliance in the exposition of 1827. For many years, the French had ceded primacy in the manufacture of musical instruments to foreign craftsmen. But by the end of the 1820s, French instrument makers had succeeded in turning the import/export figures around substantially. For the year 1826, France imported 160,00 francs worth of musical instruments. That same year, she sold some 866,000 francs worth to foreign consumers. The Pleyel piano was especially admired for the richness and sonority of its tone production – and for its ability to compete with the acknowledged leader of piano manufacturing, the English firm of Broadwood.
Chemistry had numerous triumphs to show at the exposition. The most far-reaching was probably Vicat’s study of the naturally-occuring and man-made cement. But chemical production had also been applied to the revival and improvement of stained glass technique. Here were some of the first indications that advanced industrial techniques could be applied to antiquarian realms.
Historical styles could be seen in other areas of the exposition as well. There were examples of Medieval tables, chairs and decorative design for housing interiors. "In fact," comments Blanqui, who despised the Gothic revival, "never has an exposition rendered such homage to the Gothic cult that is reviving among us now."28 Victor Hugo may well have derived some inspiration from the pieces at the exposition of 1827 for use in his soon to be published Notre Dame de Paris, the supreme expression of "the Gothic cult."
* * *
The majority of Blanqui’s report is a fair and accurate assessment – accurate, and somewhat more candid than the royally-approved official report – of the goods on display in the Louvre from August 1 through September 31. He tempers his praise with some worthwhile reflections about the nature and goal of what is being exhibited and why. He acknowledges that the expositions have their critics, and that the critics have a good case. The industrial expositions, say the critics, lack the amusements and distractions of popular fairs, and they lack a decent system for realizing a profit from the labor expended in mounting an exhibit. Such criticisms anticipate future universal expositions, in which the amusement sections, from 1867 onward, would loom larger and larger in the total offerings of the host country, and in which exhibitors took pains to assure that their products had price tags and orders could be taken on the spot.
The official report too raised one important issue that, many years hence would bear fruit. Hericart de Thury urged that the French should build a permanent hall dedicated to the exposition of industrial products. His suggestion was not followed immediately; and, until the building of the Palais de l’Industrie in 1855, exposition committees would have to arrange for the housing of exhibits. But the idea was born. From this time forward, Paris would become the queen city of expositions.
1 These requirements – quality and cheapness – would become part of Napoleon III's agenda for the products to be exhibited at the first exposition universelle in 1855.
2 Rapport du Jury Central sur les Produits de l'Exposition Française (Paris, 1819), pages 36-37
3 The exhibit of prisoners' works included Cashmere work; but the results received no special commendation from the judges. One is tempted to speculate that French merchants might have considered using "free" prison labor as one way to lower labor costs in the production of cashmere and other fabrics.
4 page xxvii
5 page xxiv
6 page xxix
9 page xlvii
10 page liv
11 page 1
12 page 5
13 Mr. le Comte de C***, Quelques réflexcions sur l’industries en général à l’occasion de l’exposition des produits de l’industrie française en 1819 (Paris, 1819)
14 page 43
16 page 44
17 Catalogue des produits de l’industrie francaise admis à l’exposition publique dans le Palais du Louvre (Paris, 1823), page 7
18 ibid., page 5
19 A.M. Héron de Villefosse, Rapport fait au jury central de l’exposition des produits de l’industrie française de l’année 1823 sur les objets relatifs à la métallurgie (Paris, 1823) page 102
20 Rapport sur les produits de l’industrie française (Paris, 1823), page 3
21 ibid, page 5
23 Adolphe Blanqui, Histoire de l’exposition des produits de l’industrie française en 1827 (Paris, 1827), page 3
24 M. le Vicomte Héricart de Thury and M. Mogneron, Rapport sur les produits de l’industrie française (Paris, 1828), page iv et sequitur
25 It is entirely possible that many people had come to Paris just to see the giraffe, a gift of the Pasha of Egypt, that had been marched from Marseilles to Paris and arrived in Paris two months before the exposition opened.
26 Blanqui, pages V-VII
27 Cyclopedia of Useful Arts, Mechanical and Chemical, Manufactures, Mining, and Engineering, edited by Charles Tomlinson. London: George Virtue and Co., 1854, Volume I, page iv
28 Blanqui, page 46
Opening Date: August 25
Closing Date: September 30
Site: Galleries in the Louvre
Top Official: Elie Decazes
Opening Date: August 25
Closing Date: October 15
Site: Galleries in the Louvre
Top Official: Le Comte Corbière
Opening Date: August 1
Closing Date: September 31
Site: Courtyard of the Louvre
Top Official: Le Comte de Saint-Cricq
Catalogue indiquant le nom des fabricans, celui de leur domicile et département, avex la désignation sommaire des produits de leur industrie et une table des matières. (Paris, 1819)
Costaz, L. Rapport du Jury Central sur les Produits de l'Exposition Française (Paris, 1819)
C***, Mr. le Comte de. Quelques réflexcions sur l’industries en général à l’occasion de l’exposition des produits de l’industrie française en 1819 (Paris, 1819)
Héricart de Thury, L. Rapport du jury d’admission des produits de l’industrie du dépertement de la Seine, à l’exposition du Louvre. (Paris, 1819)
Jouy, V.J. de. Etat actuel de l’industrie française, ou coup d’oeil sur l’exposition de ses produits dans les salles du Louvre, en 1819. (Paris, 1821)
Pecqueur, O. Exposition des produits de l’industrie française, département de la Seine (Paris, 1819).
Catalogue des produits de l’industrie francaise admis à l’exposition publique dans le palais du Louvre (Paris, 1823)
Héricart de Thury, L., and Migneron, P.H. Rapport sur les produits de l’industrie française (Paris, 1823)
Souillard, M. Exposition des produits de l’industrie française au Palais du Louvre, en 1823 (Paris, 1823)
Villefosse, A.M. Héron de. Rapport fait au jury central de l’exposition des produits de l’industrie française de l’année 1823 sur les objets relatifs à la métallurgie (Paris, 1823)
Blanqui, Adolphe. Histoire de l’exposition des produits de l’industrie française en 1827 (Paris, 1827)
Catalogue des produits de l’industrie francaise admis à l’exposition publique dans le palais du Louvre (Paris, 1827)
Exposition de 1827. Compte-rendu des produits de l’industrie française par une société d’artistes et de manufacturiérs (Paris, 1827)
Héricart de Thury, L., and Migneron, P.H. Rapport sur les produits de l’industrie française (Paris, 1828)
Payen, A. Rapport du jury départemental de la Seine sur les produits de l’industrie admis au concours de l’exposition publique de 1827 (Paris, 1829, 2 volumes)